By Kiefer O'Boyle
Week 2 tends to be the week where we get a more balanced view of how the season may unfold for our respective teams. We saw teams that looked extremely impressive last week, lay an egg this week. We saw teams that looked hopeless put in excellent shifts. The AFC South landed somewhere in between after a week 1 which saw only one team start the season with a win...and Week 2 has finished in a similar fashion with only Tennessee earning a vital win. Let’s have a look at what unfolded.
Los Angeles Rams (2-0) 27-24 Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
After an admirable week 1 performance against the Seattle Seahawks, the Colts proved that a 0-2 team can look forward to the next games with hope after another admiral performance against one of the best teams in the NFC.
Takeaway 1: This game could have gone either way. The 3-point score line doesn't necessarily tell the whole tale. On their first drive of the day, the Colts reached the Rams 1-yard line only to be stuffed on consecutive Taylor runs and turned over on downs. On their third drive, the Colts again were marching and again reached inside the Rams 5-yard line only for Wentz to be intercepted on a shovel pass. If the Colts find a way to punch in either of those early chances, the Colts go into HT with a 10-point lead instead of the 4-point deficit they faced.
Takeaway 2: Is it time to officially worry about the Colt’s offensive line? For the second consecutive game, albeit against 2 of the meaner defences in the league, Carson Wentz was under consistent pressure. The natural endpoint of having your QB take some many hits and sacks is an injury, and Wentz was forced to leave the game late in the 4th Quarter with what he believes is an ankle sprain. There is no update for his status in Week 3 however it should be a worrying sign for Colts fans and Frank Reich. Despite the constant pressure, Wentz was excellent and was probably the sole reason that Indy remained in the game until the last drive.
Stat of the Day: Carson Wentz was sacked at least three times for the 12th consecutive game. This is now the third-longest streak since the merger, trailing just Randall Cunningham (19 games) and Greg Landry (13 games).
Takeaway 3: The Colts have been much better than their 0-2 record suggests, and they’ve shown that they have playmakers in Zach Pascal and Michael Pittman. We knew they had a rough start to the season fixture-wise but next week they visit Tennessee, and it really now becomes a must-win given that 0-3 essentially blows up any playoff hopes you may have had, even in the AFC South. With the Titans coming off a big time win on the West coast, and with Wentz’s status still unknown, this could be a season defining week for Indy.
Tennessee Titans (1-1) 33-30 Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
For my money, this was the game of the week. It just had everything- amazing touchdowns, tension, awful play-calls, awful refereeing decisions, overtime…and in the end the 12’s were quietened by Randy Bullock and an overtime ending field-goal. This was the definitive game of two halves, but overall Tennessee showed the glimpses of why they could be…just could be a real challenger when it comes to the playoffs.
Takeaway 1: This was a real prove it performance for the Titans- after an absolute blowout in Week 1 against the Cardinals, the Titans came up trumps when it mattered most. Now this wasn’t pleasant viewing for the first 2 quarters- the Titans went into the half 24-9 down and it really did seem like the Tennessee we had watched last week was the Tennessee we were getting this season. Tennessee’s big playmakers who were absent last week showed up this week with Tannehill, Julio Jones and Derrick Henry all playing a key role.
Takeaway 2: Henry got going. He finished the day with 182 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. He is the most ferocious runner in the NFL and when he begins bullying a defence, he is nigh on unstoppable.
Takeaway 3: Secondly, the defence made plays when it needed to. They were again awful for the first 2 quarters with blown coverages and giving up huge yardage in a small number of plays. However, a combination of self-sabotage on Seattle’s behalf and making key plays in important situations meant that Seattle scored just 6 points in the second half and OT.
This was the first time in 6 years that the Seahawks have led by double digits going into the second half and lost and it’s hard to shake the feeling that Seattle lost this as much as Tennessee won it. However, that’s not to take away from the fact that the Titans found a gear in the second half they didn’t in week 1. It proved why they should be viewed as a potential AFC contender. The question is can they make hay when the sun shines and take care of business against Indianapolis.
Houston Texans (1-1) 21-31 Cleveland Browns (1-1)
Your first-place division team remains the Houston Texans going into week 3, and for spells in Sunday’s game in the Dawg Pound it seemed like they could be the most surprising 2-0 team in the NFL. Yet again, it seems like they were slightly underestimated by the opposition however when push came to shove, the Browns had the better weapons on offence and ultimately that was the difference in the 2 teams.
Takeaway 1: Tyrod Taylor and the Texans offence are capable of putting scoring drives together. Taylor left the game after the first half with a hamstring injury with the score line 14-14 and had Taylor remained in the game, it’s fair to ask whether this game would have finished with a home victory. Taylor’s ability to evade the pressure, and create plays shone through in the first half. He may not be capable of putting a Superbowl run together, but Taylor is the perfect fit for this Texans team undergoing a rebuild.
Takeaway 2: While the Texans offence can keep them in games with teams like the Browns, the Texans defence will always be the downfall. After keeping Mayfield and co. quiet in the first half, including a takeaway, once the Browns got going, the Texans really didn’t have an answer. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt had almost 150 yards rushing between them and ultimately this was what got the Browns the W.
Like everyone, I thought the Browns would dominate the Texans, if not on the scoreboard then at least in every other facet. It didn’t happen. The Texans proved they are playing for David Culley and they’re by no means the worst team in the NFL as many, including me expected. However, the loss of Tyrod Taylor for at least 1 week is a blow.
Denver Broncos (2-0) 23-13 Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
If we are talking about bad teams, the Jaguars really have to be close to the top of the list. For the second week in a row, you did have to question how this team will win games- are they going to win tight games? No, because the Broncos had the freedom of Duuuuuval county all game. Will they win shootouts? No, because despite having Lawrence, he is surrounded by absolutely zero playmakers.
Depressing Stat of the Day: The Jaguars have lost 17 straight games, including 11 losses by 10+ points (6 straight such losses).
Takeaway 1: Lawrence is the only player worth watching in a Jaguars uniform- that’s something we can all agree on. His touchdown throw to Marvin Jones was beautifully weighted and showed his touch. Unfortunately, Urban Meyer loves watching Lawrence throw so much that he’s making us watch it on (checks notes) every single play possible. Seriously, this team is giving Lawrence absolutely no chance to win when your running game is this pitiful. James Robinson had a team high 11 carries…11.
I mentioned this in last week’s Jags game but play after play Lawrence found himself in long down shotgun pass only situations and it simply will not work against NFL standard defences. Lawrence’s two picks only go to illustrate this. Meyer needs to rely more on the run and only then can you open the game up for Lawrence to work his magic.
Takeaway 2: The Jags look equally as bad on the other sides of the ball. After a spluttering start from the Broncos, Bridgewater notched up 328 yards, mainly to Courtland Sutton who was the team leader with 159 yards off 9 catches. They did enough and no more but even then the Jags looked unable to stop them. On special teams Josh Lambo missed 2 field goals which sums up the day for Jacksonville.
TNF: Carolina Panthers (2-0) @ Houston Texans (1-1)
The Panthers looked legitimately good against the Saints Sunday particularly on defence. With Christian McCaffrey, you can essentially guarantee you will get yards on offence. Sam Darnold looks to be gaining the confidence back he lost in New York. With the Texans losing Tyrod Taylor, you can’t say they’ll put up the same fight as they did against the Browns. While they might stick annoyingly close, ultimately Carolina should win easily enough.
Prediction: Carolina 30-15
Indianapolis Colts (0-2) @ Tennessee Titans (1-1)
This is the best division game of the week, and it could go a long way to deciding who goes on to claim the division title. It’s close to a must-win for the Colts however they’re going into Tennessee after a confidence gaining win in Seattle. They look like they had finally got going on offence and that might just be enough to win them this game. The status of Wentz is unknown as yet- if he’s a scratch this could be a big win for the Titans. If Wentz plays, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts big play ability kept this very close. Maybe even another OT game.
Prediction: Titans 34-31
Arizona Cardinals (2-0) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
I really can’t see any scenario here where Jacksonville avoids going 0-3. If you thought the Broncos had the freedom of TIAA Bank Stadium, that’s nothing compared to the 1-man-wrecking-machine in Kyler Murray. The Jags will simply have no answer on either side of the ball. I would like to see the Jacksonville offence at least try to focus on the run but if they go down early I would expect to see it fully abandoned and Lawrence will be forced into no win situations and could throw a few more interceptions.
Prediction: Cardinals 37-10